Monday, May 22, 2017

Okinawan Folktale: The Origins of Shimakanka

Sketch of hand grabbing young man's hair, grave, cave, cow

Not the Typical Love Story

Shimakanka, is a ritual celebration held in some villages in the Ryukyu Island Chain.

Last year, with the help of some friends, I attended the event in Ginoza Village.

The story was published at Stars and Stripes Okinawa Feb 22, 2016.

The portion, concerning the folklore, I will re-post here as, it is an interesting folk story.

A Grisly Folk Tale

Long before this island became Okinawa, it was Ryukyu and, way before the Ryukyu Kingdom existed as an independent country, the land was ruled by Lords, known as Aji. They built castles in their territories, to defend the populations and lands, under their control, from other Aji, seeking to increase their power.

One of these Lords had an only daughter. An epidemic, raging through the islands, took the life of his beautiful young girl. Heartbroken and grieving, he buried her in a cave along the east coast of the island.

That same day, a young man who had bought a cow was heading home with his animal tied to a rope.
Dark clouds suddenly appeared and, he decided to take shelter from an approaching thunderstorm. As the rain began to fall, he tied the cow to a nearby tree and took shelter at the entrance to the cave.

From the overhang of the cavern he watched water splash as small streams flowed, carrying leaves and earth away from just outside his shelter. He shivered and thought how lucky bovines must be. Their thick hide protects them from the ice cold rain. The weather didn't seem to phase cattle. And, he started thinking, how nice some of his grandmother's hot tea, would be, to have right now.

Extremely Chilling Experience

Shaking and coughing from getting wet, he thought he may be catching a cold and wanted to get home.
As the rain slacked off, he decided to get out of the cave, grab the cow and hurry on towards home.

He knew, for sure, grandmother would insist, he change clothes and drink a steaming kettle of hot ocha.
Then something happened to really make him want to hurry out of that shelter. A voice shouted. It was a woman's scream from under a pile of stones in the cave. “Help me. Please get me out of here!”

Thinking, it was a ghost the boy began to run. On his first step to leave the cave, a hand grabbed him by the hair on the back of his head. When he tried to run, the grasp just became tighter. The voice cried out, “Help me, please. I'm a young girl who fainted with illness. My parents thought I died and buried me here. I am alive; help me!”

Assured that it was a human in need, the young man removed the rocks burying her body and rescued her. The rain stopped and he carried her outside. He scooped fresh water from a flowing spring and nourished her. Leaving the cow behind, he carried the young woman, on his back, to her father's castle.

Exuberance at the Castle

The sentries at the castle announced the miracle of the princesses return. Everyone was ecstatic, the Lord's only daughter had survived. This was an occasion for a feast and a big celebration.

The Aji announced to the lad, “As a reward, I will give you anything you desire.” Without blinking an eye the boy said, “OK. I'd like to have your daughter as my wife.”

The Lord roared, “Peasant, you can't have this woman of royal blood as a bride!” That, got everybody shaking. “Father, I have already been considered dead, once. Please, let me be this man's wife.”

The daughter's plea, touched the Lord and, he gave the blessing for their marriage.

Slaughter of the Cow

The young man escorted an entourage, from the castle to the cavern, where the girl had been buried.
The grave site in the mountain was cleaned up and the cow was sacrificed near the cavern entrance.

Pampas grass, tied in loops was soaked in the animal's blood and used to shoo away evil spirits.
Today, the loops of grass, known as, “San” may be seen placed as amulets to ward off evil.

The San may be seen at entrances to villages and, at the corners of homeowners properties.
In some locations, they may be soaked in animal's blood but, no blood was seen in Sokei, Ginoza.

Photography and text by Michael Lynch

Verbal translation by Mami Sakiyama

Text translation by Alina Rădulescu (Folklorist)

Sketch by Atsushi Maezato


Friday, May 19, 2017

Drivel Can Get Annoying on Facebook

screenshot from Google Search, meaning of drivel

It May Hurt Someone's Feelings

The "Like and Share" -- "Copy and Paste" Facebook hooligans did it again.

Each morning, I check the iPhone before, heading off to work, on a real computer.

It's nice, to get rid of all the junk mail and, peek at Facebook activity, while still at home.

There are Friends, photographers, writers and business associates, in my Facebook feed.

We share things, that may be of interest to other friends of ours. That's cool.

And, I'm sure, we all get our fair share of things, that ain't so interesting.

I might hit the "Like" button because, somebody taped their kid's picture on the fridge.

But, won't share it on my Timeline for everyone else, to see.

Like stuff, don't Like it; so far, we still have freedom of choices. And, that's cool, too.

Some, "Drivel" gets sent around, with your name tagged or via Facebook Messenger.

These days, it's hard to tell if, it really came from your friend or, a hacker.

Matter of fact, it could even be some Facebook marketing study, generating the drivel.

Human beings, have enough brains to Like or Share, whatever they want to.

If, they don't like something they probably, won't share it. Know what I mean ?

Robots can probably be programed, to do those sorts of things. 

For Any Robot Friends Out There

 Things that go around on Facebook labeled, Like and Share + Copy and Paste:

If, you have a son, daughter, grandchild, pet, you love with all your heart

If, you had a dog, cat or parakeet with an underarm rash

If, you know someone who is a nurse, teacher, doctor or, in the military

If, someone or, something you loved, died and went to heaven

If, you know a cancer victim or, someone with a fever

If, you agree or disagree with some political bullcrap, happening in some part of the world

If, everything should be free and nobody, should have to pay taxes

This Could Go On and On Indefinitely 

Instead, I'll cut it short.  Just remember, it has to be something emotional, tear-jerking.

The subject must be something, that grabs your attention for action.

Not really, a cold-blooded, heartless individual, I'm part human, too.

Should Facebook, ever decide, to let me filter out "Like/Share/Copy/Paste, I'd do it.

The Drivel pisses me off and sometimes, ruins my day.

Any Friends who, would like to Unfriend me because of this rant. Please do !

Just read this article, on your way out the door, concerning why, I consider you ROBOTS.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Flower and Bee GIF - Plus Hydrangea Report #1 for 2017

yellow flower, bee, GIF

At Yohena Garden Today

Up north, went to check the hydrangea (ajisai for Japanese) blossoms.

Things were looking sort of grim. The parking area was empty; our first clue.

When we walked to the booth, where you pay to enter, it was abandoned, too.

Going up the hill, there were a few scraggly-looking flowers, partially blooming.

There's no sense, driving all that way, with cameras and lenses, to come home empty handed.

So, a decision was made, to go all the way to the top of the hill, to visit Mrs. Yohena.

If, my calculations are correct, she'll be 100 years old, this year.

Up at the little cafe, I met her son. He remembers me from years gone by.

Doc Graff and I, chatted with him and found out the real deal. Flowers are late this year.

He says, full bloom for hydrangeas will be around the middle of next month.

The gardens will be crawling with flower fanatics from June 1st until the 15th or 20th.

Bee and Yellow Flower

They seemed like worthwhile subjects so, I flipped the Pentax on to rapid fire.

The name of the blossom, escapes me at the moment but, I'll get it later.

Climbing that hill, gets old dudes tired. I went all the way up, almost.

Some gals from Hong Kong were the only other visitors and, they were taking pictures, too.

Neither Doc nor, I speak Chinese but, some of those girls spoke English.

So, you can probably guess, what I did. Got permission and, shot them, too.

It's a good idea if, you're shy (like me) to just start talking to strangers.

Lots of people get scared, when they see me coming but, I know what to do.

Especially girls, just blow them kisses, wave or say, "Merry Christmas."

That's what I do. And usually if, they don't run away, it's easy to talk to them.

Bees and flowers well, occasionally I get caught, talking to them, too.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trying to Shake Off One of those Evil Days

Messy desk of someone with writer's block

Writer's Block Is One Thing

Supposedly, it may happen to anyone, involved in the writing business.

Recurring spells are a regular thing, with me mostly because, I hate writing.

No blog was posted yesterday. I did plenty of preparation for today's post and, was worn out.

Pouring rain this morning got my day off, to a crumby start. It would get better, I thought.

On the way to the office, I usually manage to get a few people smiling and it lifts my spirits.

Maybe, I left for work too early. No one was walking in the rain but, me.

On top of the disorganized pile of papers on my desk, I placed a blank paper and a pen.

That would remind me, something had to be done today, bright and early.

The brain wasn't ready for scribbling yet so, I did some calisthenics and weight training.

Then, decided to walk down the street and get a bento for breakfast.

Things Went Downhill

It was raining cats and dogs and a strong wind blew but, that didn't bother me.

A huge umbrella, large enough for three of me, wind resistant and, I was good to go.

It's a few minutes walk so, I lit a smoke to enjoy, along the way.

Messy desk, bento large enough for the entire day

That bento has enough food in it to feed me for an entire day, breakfast through supper.

Besides the rice, there's carrots, potatoes, yakisoba, spicy chicken and pork tonkatsu.

Plus, eggs, sausage and goya champuru and, some tofu. It usually costs around four bucks.

I set it on the counter next to the wrong gal.  I even helped her put the lid on.

Most of the young ladies charge me 400 yen, no matter how much food I took.

Well, the ugly girl, weighed my meal and told me, it would be 450 yen. So, I gave her 500 yen.

She handed me my food, wrapped up in a plastic bag and, thanked me.

Being, I was trying to stay in a good mood, I didn't say anything about the 50 yen I, didn't get.

Maybe, she was just having a lousy, rainy day, too.  No need to make it worse.

But, I hope she slips and falls in a big puddle, on her way home. Hah !

Back in the shop, that blank paper was staring at me so, I set my hot meal on it for a photo.

Of course, I moved it and had some breakfast, while it was piping hot.

Some eggs, yakisoba, spicy chicken, goya and rice, are a good way to start the day.

My brain still wasn't ready for writing. I decided to go outside for a cigarette.

There's a corrugated roof in the alleyway. That's a good place to smoke and stay dry.

The sound of rain, beating on that roof is relaxing. I started to forget about the fat girl.

Back inside the office, I figured the meal was cool enough, to place in the fridge.

Then, decided I'd rather do some more physical stuff than, sit down and start writing.

Remember, when you were a kid and, went to the beach with your family ?

When, you got done eating, parents would tell you, you have to wait an hour, before swimming.

That's a myth, I believe. Look at Jaws. The guy was always in the water, swimming.

He'd eat people and, keep right on swimming. You, don't need to wait one hour !

So, I wasn't going to wait before, going back to my exercises and weightlifting.

It was so invigorating, I bet I spent four hours doing physical training today.

Every time I went and looked at my desk, that stupid blank page was there. I wasn't ready.

It was starting too look like a Butsu-metsu (bad luck) day.

So, this afternoon I rolled out my sleeping bag and, took a nap.

Toy characters, blank paper and pen, messy desk

It was getting late in the afternoon and, I hadn't written one word, yet.

With creativity at an all time low, I remembered these junk toys, I keep in the shop.

They come in plastic bubbles, on top of coffee cans at convenience stores.

They aren't for me. I buy them, in case any kids come by my office.

Maybe, spreading them around on that page, would give me some ideas.

Toy characters, pen, paper

The thought had occurred to me, "That girl's hair, should be black."

There's a can of black spray paint out behind my shop but, nah.

During rainy season, it would take a few hours to dry or, I'd make a mess.

The story, I'm supposed to be doing, is about how Okinawans first came to the islands.

With all the research, I've done, 1,500 words could easily be written. I'm just not ready.

Start Simple with a Rough Draft

Writer's block is something you have to deal with. It's like having some sort of brain cramp.

Rearranging things a little bit, helped me formulate the story, to where it might work.

Of course, when it gets typed, spellcheck and punctuation, will be utilized.

I'll try to get some photos or sketches to give readers a better understanding of my creation. 

Er maybe, just take another week off from writing.